NYC Council Subcommittee Votes To Close Rikers Island, Open Borough-Based Jails – CBS New York
On Wednesday, a city council subcommittee voted 5-1 to close Rikers and open four smaller borough-based jails, CBS2’s Jessica Moore reported.
But even those who voted yes say it won’t be without consequence.
“There are people in my community who I’ve worked very hard for for many years who are very angry with me for voting ‘yes,’” Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz said. “But I feel like I’m doing the right thing, the most humane thing I can do.”
Councilwoman Inez Barron brought Wednesday’s sole “no” vote. She said she supports closing Rikers, but does not support borough-based jails.
“It’s still a jail. It’s not identifying the issue of blacks and Latinos being incarcerated at a far greater rate than any other individuals. That’s the issue,” Barron said.
Former Rikers inmate Harvey Murphy celebrated the vote.
“It was a blessing. It was sentimental. I got really sentimental hearing the votes, knowing that justice is being served for those who can’t help themselves,” Murphy said.
FLASHBACK: Governor, Mayor Spar Over Plans, Timing To Close Rikers Island
Outside City Hall, there was a much different scene.
“Something is wrong that we’re pushing this through and we’re disregarding the voices of New Yorkers who don’t want borough-based jails and if we really want to correct the justice system then let’s fix it and not blame it on the brick and morter of Riker’s Island,” Councilman Andy King said.
Some people Moore spoke with said they fully support the idea of borough-based facilities but added as long as the Department of Correction is in charge, nothing will change.
“If all you do is break up Rikers and put it into four separate facilities but you don’t deal with the underlying problems that make it so dangerous, you’re just going to end up with four mini Rikers,” said Mark Peters, a former Department of Investigations commissioner.
In all, $8.7 billion would be poured into the new facilities, which would only house a total of 3,300 beds. With a current population of roughly 7,200 inmates, Peters said it’s a tall order.
“What do you do if crime already at historic lows doesn’t drop by 50% again so you only need 3,300 beds in a city of 8.5 million people?” Peters said.
By 2026, a new mayor and a new city council could be faced with a decision — expand the new facilities or reopen Rikers.
The full city council will vote on the measure Thursday. For the measure to pass, 26 members must vote yes.